gut. brain.

What do you visualize when you read the phrase Gut-Brain Axis? Or Brain-Gut Connection?

I picture very active brains communicating with very active intestines. Or is it the other way around? Both. It’s a two-way, busy connect especially when you consider the wandering nerve, aka, the vagus nerve. Think: 2-way, information highway. The vagus nerves are paired cranial nerves (CN X) and happen to be my favorite of all the nerves.  Because it is the longest nerve in the body it moves alongside heart and lungs and goes through all the organs of the digestive tract, connecting brain to gut.

I enjoy the challenge of capturing Veronica’s likeness while I work her profile.  I organize and sketch in the brain. The small area of my drawing is detailed into a collaged map of El Paso,TX,  where my cousin lives.

I have fun with the photo ↑ and strategically place color pencils to direct attention to the brainstem, the area of the brain I am working to understand.  I imagine the space to be like a facility loaded with chemicals and chemical messengers / hormones and neurotransmitters. Think: Food intake. Signals and controls. Many and complex. (FYI – purple pencil points to vagus nerve start.)

Some of the hormones involved include adipoectin (a protein hormone that modulates glucose regulation and fatty acid oxidation), and leptin (made by fat cells and decreases appetite).

Veronica, during our initial conversation, noted ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. If I understand correctly, it is primarily released in the stomach and signals hunger to the brain. It also plays a role in determining how quickly hunger returns after a meal. And it promotes fat storage. After my surgery, she says, no more ghrelin. No more! What does this mean?  Forever? I ask.  I don’t know, she answers. And now you eat because??
I must live!
Ah…survival!

Side note: The hormones that play a role in obesity, do they also play a role in anorexia?

I haven’t brought the microbiome in yet. But I will. Now when I hear gut-brain, I also think of microbes.  FYI…they can influence hunger and satiety.

Anyway…I’m still laying ground work…which is both complicated to figure out and complicated to draw. Both my brain and my hands are keeping busy.

One more thing…
In early posts I highlight the brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the white adipose tissue (WAT). Now I study and set in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) located under the skin and visceral adipose tissue (VAT).

In the image above, ↑ I enhance (darker area) the greater omentum (cool name! for an organ) , an example of VAT. It looks like lace, doesn’t it?  This apron of fatty tissue, connective tissue and lymphatics,  comes down from the stomach and stretches over the intestines. The greater omentum, aka, Policeman of the abdomen, might just be the first line of defense against toxins or infections (microbes).

BTW…yes, there is also a lesser omentum…

Meanwhile… drawing circles/making connections.


Keeping a note:
Amylin is a hormone, co-stored and co-secreted with insulin in response to nutrients. It promotes satiety by mediating brain function, including appetite inhibition.

Amylin also plays a role in neural regeneration. It helps regulate glucose metabolism and modulates inflammation. I pull it aside and note it here because of a possible link to Alzheimer’s Disease (Type II Diabetes).

art school in med school – we workshop

Arriving to the University of Arizona College of Medicine with a plan to meet with first year medical and health professional students, I take a moment to look out over a cloudy downtown Phoenix…noting lots of change in the last 12 months.

I’ve not seen Cindi, Director of Art in Medicine, since my solo-exhibition last Winter. We connect in the Health Science Education Building, catching up in the elevator as we head to a classroom.

She fills me in on the art supplies and she’s not kidding – good stuff awaits.

I’m pleased to see Rebecca, the director of the Clinical Anatomy Lab. Participating in the workshop a second time. She shares the idea she considers as well as the personal experience behind it.

I feel the excitement as students walk in and see the art supplies. An independent bunch, they pick out some things and begin to set up at a desk.

I make a quick introduction and give them general direction as I show samples of my work. We have a few hours together this afternoon, prepared and confident, there is no hesitation to begin drawing.

Students are near the end of their Clinical Anatomy Block and are preparing for the program’s annual Ceremony of Appreciation. The February evening will celebrate and honor their cadaver donors with a night of art, prose and music.

Those interested in visual art-making are here today.

Participants  use color-copies, computers and medical models to support their drawing. Most important they bring to the table a personal experience.

One by one everyone begins to draw. I move through the room to connect with them – they each share a thoughtful characteristic about their particular donor.

One student describes her donor’s hands. The drawing will hold the experience as well as  allow her to share it.

Another talks to me about the vertebrae of the neck. The top 2 bones are different from the others, she notes. Her composition is high contrast and I see her line work is fluid.  You like to draw, don’t you?  She nods her head and says yes.

I gather from conversation everyone is busy with a full schedule. They appreciate this time and place to focus on making art.

Soon the afternoon comes to an end. While no one completely finishes, everyone is well on their way.

I learn some new things….among which are the papillary muscles ↑ and the  chordae tendineae. Yes, we really do have heart-strings!

The last few months I start to consider everyone’s anatomy must differ. In particular, I consider the liver and wonder how its form varies from person to person.

One student confirms the uniqueness of every individual human body. We are different inside and out. She details the liver and the lungs and shares a general impression noting the human body’s truly organic nature.  Her peers confirm. It’s a wonder – what they describe.


On a side note:
I  continue to find connection between individuals interested in the arts and in the sciences. We share a quality of discipline and have careful observation skills, among other things.

As I walk around the room I find a model of the eye that’s been left on the shelf. It’s the  perfect connecting symbol for this art school in med school afternoon workshop.

Best to all of you – and to the dignity and honoring of each of your donors.


The evening before the workshop, in my studio I listen to Fresh-Air. An interview begins which honors another type of donor:
A Surgeon Reflects On Death, Life And The ‘Incredible Gift” of Organ Transplant

i draw beautiful whipworms (note to self – these are parasites)

What a nice surprise to hear from María Adelaida. I’m pleased to learn she keeps an eye on my work as she notes my recent activity on microorganisms.

I know María from years back (2008-09). She is a biologist originally from Colombia, she’s in the valley working for the Mayo Clinic when I meet her at a friends party. She attends one of my art openings before moving to Germany to continue her education.

These days she lives in the UK and works at the Sanger Institute. Her current research is intestinal parasitic worms that cause neglected tropical diseases with a huge impact on children.

She has an idea for collaboration that includes a public engagement project.  Does she know how often I think about opportunity to engage with the public? It’s on my mind a lot especially after my summer artist residency at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Maria Adelaida’s research is the Whipworm and Trichuriasis.

We talk about art as a form of communication. She talks about her work reaching a new audience. I enjoy the idea of my work reaching a different audience as well. She speaks STEM, I bring the A in and speak STEAM.

I’m intrigued. Can you send photos of these whipworms?

She sends a series of electron microscope images. Oooooh! The first ones, in black and white, defined and beautiful, show the marking and pattern of the male worm. He appears to float in stillness (I don’t imagine the intestines are a quiet place. Are they?)

Soon I receive a Powerpoint of larvae that is out of the eggs, she says, in the presence of bacteria. (I can’t identify the bacteria.) And then more photos patterned and stained bright show the internal structure of an adult female whipworm infecting the cecum of a mouse. A transversal section shows the eggs.

I make time to get to my drawing table. I want to better understand what I see.

Cecum, Eggs and my imagination.

I spend a day drawing the cecum, a pouch connecting the small and large intestine. I imagine the area with little light (dark) so I take my drawing into a filter and play with it ↑.

Cecum is from the Latin caecus and means blind – blind intestine, blind gut or cul de sac.
Maria identifies the super beautiful cecum epithelia and explains it is only a single layer of cells, that is folded in ‘crypts’ to maximize the area. 

I note the eggs. I wonder how long they take to hatch. (Is this the correct language? Do they hatch?)

I spend a few days looking at photos and drawing worms. Yes, they do resemble a whip.

The female is larger than the male. I’m surprised to know the thinner narrower end of the worm is where the mouth is located while the wider end is its rear.

I take the image into a filter and again imagine the inside of the large intestine.

I get lost in the drawing.  I have to remind myself these are parasites that cause serious problems to the host. #DrawingInProcess #2sided


I learn from Dr María A Duque-Correa whipworm infection causes Trichuriasis, which affects millions of children around the world. Her goal is to more fully understand the initial stages of the epithelia infection by the larvae, a crucial step that determines whether the worms are expelled or remain in the gut causing chronic disease. In the long term, this knowledge will help to develop vaccines and discover drugs to fight whipworm infections.

Here is one of her public engagement programs → Worm Hunters.

Crossing my fingers that we will work together in the future.

a bacterium – the coiled gatekeeper

Meet Helicobacter pylori, AKA H. pylori – a bacterium found in the mucous lining of the stomach (in at least 50% -60% of the world’s population).

External (top image) and internal (bottom image) study of H. pylori bacteria.

Helicobacter from the Greek, means spiral or coil. Pylori related to pylouros, the opening or junction leading from the stomach into the duodenum, also from the Greek, translates to gatekeeper.

My studies include bacterial cell basics: plasma membrane, cell wall, ribosomes, cytoplasm and nucleoid (no enclosed nucleus).

H.Pylori: external (top), internal structures (bottom)

I remember once-upon-a-time studying single-celled organisms. I always liked the word flagella and still it manages to get my attention (determines compositional layout). The whip-like appendages support locomotion (moving, pushing, swimming) and are also sensitive to temperature and chemistry.

I wonder – in the case of  H. pylori – should this particular microorganism really be on the move? 

Flagella – a whip-like appendage.

I work from images that include the pili (another cool word…related to pilus and Latin for hair) while other photos suggest the bacteria to be a smooth coil. In each study I take liberty with color and I include the hair-like pili in one drawing, for the added rhythmic line and texture.

Some of my favorite bacteria (in name only) have a lot in common (of course they do, they’re bacteria). To my untrained (in bacteria) eyes (perhaps even to the trained eye) my study of H. pylori could resemble E-Coli. Perhaps one might even pass for Lactobacillus and another for Salmonella.

As my study evolves – Surface of bacteria

The human body (yours and mine) is home to loads of (100 trillion) bacteria.  We host colonies of microorganisms! They live in us and on us.

Are they harmful? They can be. Are they beneficial? They might be. For example, H. pylori in the stomach can lead to duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer. Did I mention this particular bacteria adapts to an acidic environment? Note – it does not always produce disease.

Process photos… study continues to evolve…internal structure of bacteria

I think about the creative process a lot, laying out careful design only to sometimes rub it out quickly. It is, for me, a continuous mix of control and freedom.

Helicobacter pylori, Coiled Gatekeeper, are you a natural expression of the creative process?


Back in the studio…
I am in the stomach with this bacteria. I plan to look at viruses, fungi and archaea too. Let’s see where they take me. At some point I will be returning to the brain – with a new perspective.
#GutBrainAxis #Microbiome

art and science

Creativity is essential to the scientific process.


Do you know there is an International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health?
→ #ISEMPH2018 

Today I know more about Evolution Medicine than I do the Spring day back in March when I meet with Joe Alcock, here in Phoenix. By the time that Saturday afternoon is over, I have an invite to attend ISEMPH’s summer conference in Park City, Utah.

I can’t make it but my compositions will … make an appearance.

Joe selects a number of artworks to use for posters supporting various conference topics. Director Janice Mancuso invites me to send my line of coasters using the specific works (and hands!…she likes the hands with the eyeball embedded into the palm).

I would have learned so much…


Listening to → Joe’s Evolution Medicine Podcasts, I come across this ↑ one morning. Maybe you recognize Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life and to the right is my artwork ‘Portrait of Sara – Head in Profile, Arms Akimbo’. #Cool #WhereArtMeetsScience

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
– Charles Darwin


the front and the back bones holding your brilliance

They are elegant and living organs – the bones of your skull.  Each one of the cranial bones is unique in architecture. I appreciate the contour of the frontal bone, most especially the sutures (fibrous joints).

Cranial bones are the hard mineral matrix supporting (fixing) the structure of your face (Including your sensory structures). The cranial bones provide protection for the brain (aka: braincase). In the case of the frontal bone – it protects the frontal lobe of the brain.

Your frontal bone forms your beautiful forehead and shapes the top edge of your orbits – look at that brow ridge!

Front bone (anterior)

Front bone (posterior)

The Occipital bone ↓ forms your posterior skull, your cranial cavity. It has a large opening, the foramen magnum (Latin for great hole), where your spinal cord exits your skull.

All the while I draw – I consider the energetics of this area…where the spinal cord exits the skull…It must be a sacred space!

Occipital bone – external surface

Occipital bone, inner surface

Studying the 8 cranial bones for a good while, I am not yet done. I look at the 2-paired bones next.  I could not have known how intricate and wonderful the upper skull is (what to me so long!).

Today I know better these bones that protect our brain, and protect our brilliance!  Out on an early bike ride this a.m. – I appreciate my bicycle helmet just a little bit more…

pugmark

A pugmark refers to the mark, track or footprint of an animal on the ground.

Invited to exhibit my jaguar at the i.d.e.a. Museum in February, they ask if I have touchable and tactile art samples for visitors to interact with. I don’t. But knowing I’d like the design, I create jaguar pugmarks. The sample also holds the smaller prints of another Sonoran desert cat – the mountain lion. The exhibits focus – the Sonoran Desert.

In our Arizona desert you can come across a mountain lion, but chances are you will never see a jaguar. But in the Dos Cabezas Mountains (about 60 miles north of the U.S. – Mexico border) you can (if luck and the stars are with you) wander across a jaguar pugmark.

The jaguar has a large pad with toes that fan out. Notice the oval-shaped toes taper, and one comes forward more than the others. The wide based pad is ‘M’ shaped. ( The smaller mountain lion prints appear similar).  The big cat walks with claws retracted so you will not see them in the footprint.

Front pad is larger (left), while hind pad is smaller (right).

Conservationists and researchers use footprints to study large animals in the wild, like the jaguar. Footprint size helps to identify individuals, but it is not an exact science.


i.d.e.a. museum
Sonoran Safari
Opens Friday, February 9  and runs through Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 8, 2018, 5-7 p.m.


art in medicine – nothing in stasis

I spend the day with the crew at the University of Arizona’s medical school. I am in downtown Phoenix, at the Health Sciences Education Building, installing Nothing In Stasis, my most recent (years of work actually) drawings and paintings.

Walking in this morning, I see a group of students looking closely at my largest canvas that at the moment leans against a wall. I hear someone call out the name of a muscle. Someone else points out the thyroid.  I smile as I approach them and someone asks,  Are you the artist?  This is so accurate, she says. I hope so, I respond. I identify the figures in the painting and we talk about the content.

In between classes I catch students looking at artwork.  Either I am introduced by someone or I introduce myself. I completely enjoy it.

I shoot a series of photos ↓ while sitting in the corner working out a hanging system. Again, students are between classes. One young woman looks at one drawing and then another. She calls a friend over and says something to her as she points. I decide to walk over and introduce myself (all the while feeling like John Quiñones on What Would You Do).

The one female asks me if the surrounding organs signify something about the people depicted.

Yes! You’re correct!
Are they people you know?
My niece, my father and my mother. 

We discuss the compositions of my parents.  They clearly recognize and appreciate the details.

I don’t know how many students I connect with on this busy afternoon but each conversation brings insight.  Are you a medical doctor? My not so scientific response – No, but maybe in another life I was.

Before the afternoon is over I gather how meaningful the usual art works are  to the students, faculty, and staff. They have rotating exhibitions here. And for some reason this last month there has been no art on their walls. I am, in fact, putting my work up 2 weeks ahead of schedule. I clearly hear and see the art element is missed by most everyone.

I speak with Cynthia Standley,  who among other things organizes the Art in Medicine programming. We discuss the value of art in this particular educational setting. We talk about the connection between art and medicine (science) in terms of skill building: observation, critical thinking and communication. She notes how the skills enhance patient care. I note these are the very same skills I teach my drawing students.

I learn they have a partnership with the Phoenix Arts Museum as does our Department of Art at Phoenix College.

At the end of a long day, I sit and watch the natural light flood the now quiet area.

On a side note: When I agree to have a solo at the medical school, I am unaware they have a room with glass walls ↑ and they don’t know I have 2-sided translucent drawings. A medical school with glass walls…perfect!

My studio is empty. I have 60-plus drawings and paintings hanging in the Health Sciences Education Building at the Phoenix Bio-Medical Campus located a few blocks South of the Roosevelt Row Arts District.

The exhibition titled Nothing In Stasis will be showing to April of 2018. The area is open to the public and allows for visitors. An artist reception is in the planning for February’s First Friday. More info to come.


Health Sciences Education Building
Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC)
435 N. 5th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004-2230
Map (PDF)
Parking Information

where art and science intersect

The title to this post is the direction I plan to take a 7-minute talk yesterday.  I discuss both art and science, but I never do say they intersect in my studio – every single day. It’s true. They do.

14310409_10154523023037298_1464693207107995370_o

I am among 4 people Michelle Dock invites to take part in a STEAM themed panel for the annual AZ SciTech conference, held at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. The general focus for the conference is STEM. I am there to bring ART into the conversation.

Michelle makes introductions. I walk center stage and greet the audience ready to begin -and the only person in my mind, at that moment, is Leonard Da Vinci. I let go of my opening line and talk about him. He designed a tank, a submarine, a flying machine and he brings perspective into the picture plane. He covers all the areas of STEM before STEM even exists. And he certainly covers STEAM. He is the archetypal Renaissance man, I say to the audience.

I don’t plan to begin my talk with Leonardo, but it feels right. Truth is, along with old and new medical illustration books, microscopic photographs and videos – his anatomy study is always somewhere on my drawing table.

From Leonardo I return to the 21st century and introduce my Cell/Map of Phoenix (no photo) and naturally follow with the recently completed Portrait of Sophie, a Study of Trisomy 21. Cell structure, the nucleus, chromosomes, DNA and genes are the connecting threads. I look at her for a good while before I can say anything. I’m struck by how large and bright the form stands on the screen in front of me.

img_9280

And because I have two minutes to spare, I gather my thoughts and end with my work on mylar,  Anatomy of the Thorax (anterior and posterior view),  influenced by a Gunther von Hagens’ dissection. I refer to him as the Body World’s guy. I can tell by their reaction, the audience knows who he is.  Do they know he’s influenced by Rembrandt? Gunther always appears in public with a fedora, in honor of the painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicloaes Tulip.

img_9282

Can someone tell me why it isn’t STEAM all the time? Art is a powerful language communicating via line, color, texture, form, repetition and all the other elements of design. It enters into all the other fields. If Leonardo was alive today, it would be no other way. Maybe that’s why he takes over my brain…

So … Where do art and science intersect? In my studio, on my drawing table, on my paper and canvas – each and everyday!

Also on the panel:
Michelle Dock, Tempe Center for the Arts (Moderator)
Catyana Falsetti (Forensic Artist)
Dianne Hansford, PhD (Special Modeling)
Konrad Rykaczewski, PhD (Biomimicry)


You have a few more days to catch STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) at the Tempe Center for the Arts. It closes this Saturday, Sept 17th.

i get questions

I appreciate getting emails from people who see my anatomy studies. Now and again I enjoy answering a question. Here is one I receive today. Thanks Karen!

Just want to share how much I enjoy seeing your art. I originally found/bought a coaster (bat) at Made during a Third Friday visit downtown Phoenix. When I saw the original would be shown at ASU, I made a trip to the museum to see it and the other exhibits at that gem of a museum. A follow-on of course, is the STEAM exhibit at TCA. I met some friends there and enjoyed all of the exhibits, but especially finding more of your work was so enjoyable. Your human anatomy work, from the intricate detail, color and scale, so awesome to see. Thank you for creating and showing your beautiful talent. I love the expression of “inside beauty” from the cellular, organ, system, skeletal. If I may, please tell me about your use of maps behind the animal/insect art. It is a great effect.
Thank you!
Karen

Karen, the maps tell the viewer about the subject.

About the bat: Invited to take part in an exhibition slated to travel overseas, Between Earth and Sky: Contemporary Art from the American Southwest originally travelled to China. Born and raised in the Southwest, I set out to focus on a creature  connected to each state I’ve lived in. The map, in the case of the bat, connects it to Arizona where it is the state mammal. I currently live in Phoenix near a large colony. Bats, in general, are in serious decline. I hope these thrive and continue to visit our neighborhood. On a practical note they help keep mosquito population down.

bat

The Cicada, one of the insects in the STEAM exhibition, is from Kansas City. Someone who saw the ASU show sent me beautiful cicada’s from her personal collection. It was truly a special gift. I quickly researched the insects and I am certain I will not take another one for granted again.  Kansas City sits at left center edge of the composition.

cicada_lores

I began using maps a few years back. My husband brought home a perfectly preserved Hercules Beetle he found in a mine in Superior, AZ. I keep the impressive specimen in my studio. You see the city highlighted in the lower center (green) area.

hercules coaster

The maps are part of the narrative – they supply information : How? Where?
How did the study originate? Where does the the creature come from?

I love knowing the coaster directed you on to museum visits.

no woman is an island

Mary leaves the studio with my house fly. It comes as a surprise when she asks about my bugs and ends up with this small mixed media painting on panel. She looks at two of them. I think she said she liked the creep factor in this work.

4Martinez_Fly

I particularly enjoy this afternoon meeting with Mary Erickson. Our paths crossed years ago when I did some things with the Bilingual Press (ASU) through the Hispanic Research Center. More recently I know Mary through the Tempe Center for the Arts, where she is the coordinating consultant for online curriculum. We meet to discuss art, education, and in particular – STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) –
yes both the bold lettering and color enhancement here are mine.

Before we get to work I learn things about Mary – mostly that she is a force. And she is generous. She shares much with me, including that she grew up on a farm. I get insight into how she processes. She tells me how she chooses to situate herself in meetings. As we speak I have to wonder, could I learn to maneuver through life in the way she does? I’d like to.

Our conversation includes health and body awareness (naturally), feminism, culture, as well as age, work and education. I learn the word andragogy, associated to adult education and learning.

We get to our discussion about art and education. She is designing curriculum for a STEAM inspired exhibition organized by the TCA that will include art installations, scientific displays, educational text panels, videos, hands on projects and workshops. My anatomy studies will be a part of the summer presentation.

We go back and forth looking at samples of my work and talking about process and materials while she considers lesson planning. What I forget to tell Mary is that I know of her curriculum through my sister who directed me there some years back – Creating Meaning in Art.

IMG_8528

More and more I realize how my work allows me to cross paths with interesting folks. Dr. Mary Erickson is one of those people. She is a Professor of Art at Arizona State University → more.
Thank you much Mary, for everything. I enjoyed our afternoon.


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.